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The Alkaline Diet

Are you taking worthless alkaline treatments?

A little knowledge can be dangerous. It gives us the impression we understand something far better than we actually do. Properly exploiting that sliver of truth is the goal of con artists everywhere.

One of the more lucrative scams is the alkaline diet. There are several books on the subject and their idea is simple. Any food you eat can bring an acidic, neutral or alkaline load to your body. As society has advanced, we're eating more acidic foods and that's the reason for many of our health problems. Alkaline diet promoters claim if we switch to a diet rich in alkaline foods we can drop the weight, prevent ulcers, protect our bones and even relieve arthritis.

If only it were true. Your stomach is so highly acidic, no food can change its acidity. You have something called enzymes that start all the chemical reactions in your body. Enzymes function within a narrow range of acidity. Should that acidity level fluctuate, your body quickly moves to change it back to normal. If it didn't, those chemical reactions that are critical to our survival wouldn't happen.

To measure how acidic or alkaline things are, scientists refer to the "pH" level. Normal pH levels for people are between 7.35 and 7.45. If things get seriously out of whack, the conditions are called acidosis (extremely high acidity) or alkalosis (extremely low acidity.) If you have either of those conditions, you don't need a dietary change, you need a hospital because they can both be life-threatening.

To help you out, I've decided to list some of the major myths and realities of an alkaline diet. If you're an alkaline diet believer, don't get mad at me for presenting the facts. Get mad at the people who told you the lies in the first place.

Myth: The alkaline diet must work the way the promoters say, look at all the people who've lost weight on it.

Reality: The typical alkaline or pH balance diet begins with some very reasonable suggestions. Start by eliminating or dramatically cutting back on grains and vegetables cooked with fat. Replace whole milk, cheese and fatty meats with non-fat milk, low-fat cheese and lean meats. Substitute water, green tea and caffeine-free drinks for sugar-filled soda, energy drinks and alcohol.

Those changes are right in line with the recommendations of many diets. Eat more fruits and vegetables while dumping high calorie and high fat processed foods. But the reason why people lose weight following that advice is because those foods have fewer calories, not because it's changing the acid balance of your body.

Myth: Highly acidic foods cause stomach ulcers.

Reality: There are two primary causes of stomach ulcers. A bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Spicy foods and citrus fruits may aggravate the symptoms, but they don't cause the condition.

Myth: Acidic foods deplete calcium, weaken your bones and make your blood more acidic.

Reality: Not really. When you eat more protein than your body needs, the excess is converted to organic acids. To prevent those organic acids from turning your blood acidic, your bones shed calcium, neutralize the acid and keep your pH balanced. It's not the acid that may weaken your bones, but too much protein.

Myth: There are hundreds of studies online that prove the alkaline diet works and is good for you.

Reality: There are hundreds of ARTICLES available online where people express their BELIEF in the effectiveness and health benefits of an alkaline diet. But someone giving a testimonial about how an alkaline diet changed their life isn't medical proof. Testimonials are simply one person's opinion. As of February 2019, there are no clinical studies showing that an alkaline diet is effective because of a change in your food's acidity or the acidity of the water you drink.

Myth: I'm following the advice of a highly respected doctor, Robert O. Young as laid out in his book The pH Miracle.

Reality: (From Center for Science in the Public Interest): In June 2017, Young—who charged people thousands of dollars to attend his “pH Miracle” retreats—was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for practicing medicine without a license. He also admitted to having no college education. (His “Ph.D.” apparently came from a diploma mill.)

Myth: An alkaline diet helps relieve the pain from arthritis.

Reality: Any diet that helps you lose weight can relieve arthritis pain. As you drop the pounds, there is less stress on your joints, which results in less pain. There is no clinical evidence connecting a drop in arthritic pain simply because of a low acid diet.

The next time somebody tries to sell you a kit to test your body acidity, a drink to increase your alkaline levels or a diet that pushes one food over another because of its pH level, thank them for their time and walk away. Don't bother explaining the facts, they've already convinced themselves of the lie. It's your job not to give it any more attention.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 11/19/2013
Updated 4/12/2019